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Malta

Main attractions

Blue Grotto, Malta
Blue Grotto / Andrea Castelli, / CC BY 2.0

If one looks for the world champion in the density of amazing and unique landmarks, Malta easily could be the one. This tiny island country has:

Hal Saflieni, Malta
Ħal-Saflieni / Wikimedia Commons, user Hamelin de Guettelet CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Some of world's oldest temples: impressive megalithic structures which were built almost 6,000 years ago.
  • The only known prehistoric underground temples, built 10 m under the land surface more than 5,000 years ago.
  • Some of world's most impressive Baroque churches.
  • Beautiful medieval towns and cities with intact fortification systems.
  • Massive, complex fortification systems from the 16th - 18th century.
  • Archaeological mysteries - "cart ruts" and purported undersea temple.

Natural landmarks

Azure Window, Malta
Azure Window / Berit Watkin, Flickr CC BY 2.0
  • Azure Window - Gozo. One of most iconic natural bridges in the world. Arch rises over the sea and is 28 m tall. It may collapse at any time.
  • Blue Grotto - Southern Region. Group of several sea caverns and natural arches. Here is well seen the sunlight which shines through the sea water, creating diverse shades of blue color.
  • Dingli Cliffs - Northern Region. Up to 250 m tall cliffs, towering above the Mediterranean.
  • Għar Dalam - Southern Region. Cave contains unique remnants of such animals as dwarf elephant, hippopotamus, deer and others, trapped on the island at the end of ice age, as well as the oldest human remnants in Malta (7,400 years). Cave paintings include paintings of elephants.
  • Il-Maqluba Sinkhole - Southern Region. Impressive sinkhole, some 15 m deep and with a diameter of some 80 m. Most likely it formed by a collapse of cave chamber during an earthquake in 1343.
  • Inland Sea (Qawra) - Gozo. Small lake - sea bay, accessible from the sea through a narrow natural arch. Boats can pass through it in calm days.

Man made landmarks

Prehistoric temples

  • Ġebel ġol-Baħar - Central Region. Possible remains of prehistoric temple under the water, 2 km from the coast. Site is 19 m under the sea level and contains clusters of large stones which seem to form three circles, there are also cart ruts. Many specialists disagree and consider that this is not an archaeological monument.
  • Ggantija - Gozo. Very old meghalitic temples, built in Neolithic Age. Oldest, southerly temple was built around 3600 BC and belongs to world's oldest structures.
  • Ħaġar Qim - Southern Region. Complex of meghalitic temples, a unique prehistoric monument. Main temple was made from enormous stone labs around 3600 - 3200 BC but to the north from it is considerably older structure. The facade includes a 57 tons heavy stone - largest megalith in Malta. In the temple were found sculptures resembling the style of Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines.
  • Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni - Southern Region. The only known underground (up to 10.6 m deep) temple of prehistoric times besides the Xagħra Stone Circle. Development of this temple started around 4000 BC, current structure was built around 3300 - 3000 BC. Initially it was temple but later was turned into a necropolis. Interesting feature is carving of left hand in a wall.
  • Mnajdra - Southern Region. Group of meghalitic temples, built around 3600 - 2500 BC. These are sophisticated structures built from large stone slabs. Complex consists of three temples, each built in its own time. The lower temple was built around 3000 BC and might be the most impressive megalithic structure in Malta, it is astronomically aligned. Stones here are decorated with dots ad also spiral carvings.
  • Skorba Temples - Northern Region. Remnants of megalithic temple which was built roughly at 3600 BC, in the site of much older village.
  • Tarxien temple, Malta
    Tarxien temple with stone bowl / Taty2007, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0
    Ta' Ħaġrat Temples - Northern Region. Remains of meghalitic temples. The oldest, larger one was built around 3600 - 3200 BC, younger one - around 3300 - 3000 BC. In the temple was found also a small scale model, also made from stone.
  • Tarxien Temples - Southern Region. Group of three meghalitic temples, built around 3250 - 3000 BC. One of the temples which was built around 3100 BC, is the best decorated prehistoric temple in Malta. Here are carvings of domestic animals, spiral designs and other features.
  • Xagħra Stone Circle (Brochtorff Circle - which might be also another structure nearby) - Gozo. Underground temple from the prehistoric times. Nearly unique underground temple from the prehistoric times, built and used in the time period from 3000 to 2400 BC. Here were found more than 2,000 parts of human bones and prehistoric artefacts.
Misraħ Għar il-Kbir - the mysterious cart ruts in Malta
Misraħ Għar il-Kbir - the mysterious cart ruts / Ronny Siegel, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Other archaeological landmarks

  • Misraħ is-Sinjura dolmen (Qrendi dolmen) - Southern Region. Megalith from the Bronze Age, around 2500 - 1500 BC. Most likely served as a burial chapel. The capstone is 4.4 by 3.8 m large.
  • Misraħ Għar il-Kbir (Clapham Junction) - Northern Region. Site with well pronounced cart ruts - somewhat mysterious prehistoric monuments: tracks in limestone, similar to cart ruts left in soft mud or clay. Here the cart ruts form a complex pattern, a kind of "jam". Tracks are up to 60 cm deep, always in pairs.
  • Ta’ Ċenċ cart ruts - Gozo. Possibly the best example of cart ruts - mysterious prehistoric tracks in limestone.
Valletta, Malta
Valletta / Julien Lozelli, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Historical cities and towns

  • Birgu - South-Eastern Region. Short-time capital of Malta, a historical port city with rich and diverse architecture. Located on a peninsula. Magnificent is the seaside street - Vittoriosa Waterfront as well as numerous outstanding buildings.
  • Cittadella - Gozo. Fortified hilltop town, inhabited and fortified since the Bronze Age, 1500 BC. In the Medieval Ages turned into a castle. Fortifications are intact.
  • Mdina and Fortifications of Mdina - Northern Region. Ancient capital of Malta, walled medieval city still confined to its fortification walls. Inhabited since 4000 BC, once important stronghold of Phoenicians around 700 BC. Local architecture is mostly represented by medieval Norman style and later Baroque style. The extensive system of fortifications around the town is fully preserved. Most of fortifications were built in the 16th - 18th centuries.
  • Valletta and Fortifications of Valletta - South-Eastern Region. The small Old City of Valletta contains amazing number of valuable buildings, most in late Renaissance and Baroque style, built in the 16th century and later. Here are numerous beautiful city palaces in Baroque and Rococo styles. One of the few planned Renaissance towns which has been preserved almost intact. City is protected with massive fortification walls, built in the 16th - 19th century.
Fort St. Angelo, Malta
Fort St. Angelo / Joe Drew, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Forts

  • Fort St. Angelo - South-Eastern Region. Enormous castle and bastion rising over the sea in Birgu town. Castle was here already in the 13th century although fortification might be older. Current structures were built for most part in the 16th - 17th centuries. Site of interesting ghost stories.

Palaces

  • Grandmaster's Palace - Valletta, South-Eastern Region. Palace of the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, built in the 16th century. Now this massive Renaissance palace serves as the Office of the President of Malta. Rooms in the palace have magnificent interiors.
  • Verdala Palace - Southern Region. Massive palace in Rennaisance style, built in 1586. Now serves as the residence of the President of Malta. Ornate interiors, stories about the ghost - "Blue Lady".
  • Villa Bologna and its gardens - Central Region. Beautiful villa, similar to a small palace. Built in Baroque style in 1745. At the palace is beautiful park in Baroque style, with opulent garden architecture, e.g. The Nymphaeum.
Rotunda of Xewkija, Malta
Rotunda of Xewkija / Jennifer Morrow, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Churches

  • Basilica of the Visitation in Għarb - Gozo. Beautiful church in Baroque style, built in 1699 - 1729.
  • Rotunda of Mosta (Rotunda of St Marija Assunta) - Northern Region. This church has fourth largest unsupported dome in the world, with an internal diameter of 37.2 m and are resting on 9.1 m thick walls. It was built in 1833 - 1860ies.
  • Rotunda of Xewkija - Gozo. Impressive church, with 75 m high dome, third highest unsupported dome in the world. Constructed in 1952 - 1978 in Neo-Baroque style.
  • St. George's Basilica - Gozo. Large and ornate church in Baroque style, built in 1672 - 1678. Inside the church are numerous works of art, beautiful murals.
  • St. Johns Co-Cathedral - Valletta, South-Eastern Region. One of the most outstanding Baroque style buildings anywhere, built in 1573 - 1578. From the outside cathedral might seem austere, but interior is sumptuous, with a multitude of beautiful works of art. Walls and ceiling are entirely covered with beautiful murals.
St. Paul's Catacombs, Malta
St. Paul's Catacombs / Peter Grima, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • St. Paul's Catacombs - Northern Region. Underground cemeteries made by Romans and used until the 4th century AD, the largest system of catacombs in Malta. Contain the earliest known evidence of Christianity in Malta as well as Judaism and local, paganic traditions. These catacombs have a complex plan and include more than 30 hypogea connected with numerous passages. Near the entrance were plastered rooms which once were adorned with murals.

List of described attractions by region

Malta consists of five regions.

Central
Gozo
Northern
South-Eastern
Southern
ArrowMnajdraPrehistoric and ancient shrines, Meghaliths

Map of Malta

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